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First trip to UNC

The drive down yesterday, Sunday 3/1, was awful!  There was a severe snow storm for the 60 miles between Lynchburg and Danville, VA and we were crawling along at 25 mph seeing cars slid off the road into the ditch every half mile.  I looked at the radar map as we were heading into the bad snow and it looked like it would be rain once we got to Danville, but those maps have failed me before!  I was really glad it was right this time.  Still, the whole trip took almost 5.5 hours.  We only got lost in the last mile or two when route 54 cloned itself and we ended up on the other side of campus than I expected.  The iPhone GPS confirmed and we made it.

We stayed at the Carolina Inn, something of a UNC institution I guess.  I had read about it and friends recommended it but I didn’t think anything was worth $200 a night.  I saw someone on Tripadvisor who said they got a room there by choosing 4 stars and $60 on and that worked for me too.

My appointment for a CT Scan was at 8am the next day.  I’d woken up with a sore throat on Sunday and by Sunday afternoon felt like I was going to lose my voice.  I was worrying about not having any water for two hours before the scan so I woke up at 5:00 and drank quite a bit and then went back to sleep.

We woke up to find an inch at least of snow on the ground so I determined that the hospital was only .7 miles away and we decided to walk.  It was cold and the sidewalks had been plowed but were still a bit slippery.  We got there about 7:45 and I had to check in and get a new patient ID card.  $127 co-pay for the CT Scan – let the payout begin!

The CT Scan was uneventful.  Don left me to go get coffee and back to the room to try to get some work done.  I was done by 8:20.  I found some juice and found the location of the ENT check-in area in the Neurosciences hospital.  The receptionist seemed very frazzled and told me there was a 2 hour delay and she didn’t know when my audiologist would be in, but I could wait.  My appointment wasn’t until 9 so I wandered back to the lobby to find cell service for my phone.  It’s hard to have an iPhone when you don’t have service!

At about 9:10 I was back in the waiting room and someone came to see if I was there.  They had a lovely graduate student do all the tests for me.  What a load of tests!  For you bilateral implant wearers who complain about three sets, I don’t pity you anymore because today I had to do five sets of tests!  Each ear separately with the ear plug for pure tones and CNC words, then both ears together with hearing aids, CNC, and sentences in quiet and noise, and then repeated for each aided ear separately.  I didn’t get to look anything over closely, but I sent an email tonight asking if I can have a copy of the audiogram and percentages for my records.  They joked that I scored too high with both ears – 60% (sentences I think! but not sure) but that with noise it dropped to 40% and with one ear at a time it was 20% in either side with the left being slightly better then right (that’s my general perception as well).  They said they didn’t have to submit the two ears together test results to the insurance company and compare motor trade insurace so it should be fine.  I think it’s funny that two ears are 3 times as good as one. :)  How does that work?

Then I got to look at the dummy implant they had.  I’m still happy with my decision to go with Med-El.  I get to decide what color processor I want (they also have beige and dark gray “anthracite”.  I’m leaning towards “bordeaux red” then I’ll dye my hair red to match).  They also told me that if I get this all done by June I’ll probably get two processors, but once the fiscal year changes over in June they won’t be doing that anymore.  Incentive to hurry up… like I need that. 🙂

We finished all that up about 11am which was when my appointment with the surgeon was set for.  I waited about an hour for him though.  My phone decided after 20 minutes of no service in exactly the same spot to mention that there was an open UNC wifi network I could connect to.  Gee! Thanks!  Another guy came in with an iPhone and he was already using that wifi or I would have pointed it out.

Meeting the surgeon was very interesting.  I learned a lot about the concept of ‘electronic acoustic stimulation’ (EAS) and that you didn’t have to be in the Med-El hybrid implant study to take advantage of it.  The less invasive electrodes are already FDA approved and are known as the “M” electrode.  The goal of EAS is to preserve residual hearing and since that’s why I was interested in going to UNC in the first place that’s the type of surgery and implant the surgeon wants to do for me.  I’ll cover this in more detail in the next post because I want it to be easier to find.

Overall, a very successful visit.  I’m very tired.  I didn’t get to set up any dates yet or talk about insurance coverage because the guy who does that wasn’t in today (something about snow maybe).  I have his card and I will be calling him tomorrow if he doesn’t email me before then.  I told him I’d be using the relay to call, so we’ll see if he prefers email to the relay.  Some people do.  Hopefully he can help me understand the costs I’m going to be responsible for.  My rough estimate is in the $5000 range since that’s what my insurance lists as the maximum out of pocket expense per year for our of network services.  It’s a lot, but not much worse than new hearing aids….   More to come soon.



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